Work Relationships

23 September 2022

3 min.

Difficult conversations: How to make them constructive?

What could be more demanding than undertaking a difficult conversation at work? It is a task that requires courage but is nevertheless necessary if we want to correct problematic behaviours or situations. How do you manage to share feedback without the person concerned getting upset when you offer feedback?

The trick is to come prepared and to have the means to follow up effectively. Keeping the message in mind while leaving space for the other person to be involved in the solution during this difficult conversation is an important success factor. The key is in the approach: what is the problem? What is problematic are the situations, not the people. After all, there is a solution to every problematic situation. You just have to figure it out and that’s it!

Efficient preparation leads to success

In general, the earlier you intervene in problematic situations, the more likely you are to succeed. However, this does not mean jumping in head first. It is important to prepare thoroughly by identifying the facts that led to the problem. It is also a great opportunity to clarify your intent. Will your mindset be one of blame or one of kindness? This preparation stage is your best ally for what comes next.

Time to take action! You should go step by step to ensure that your feedback is received properly, i.e. without demobilizing the other person. Forget about wrapping things up in all sorts of compliments. In a difficult conversation, it is better to use a direct approach.

Soft skill

As a team, adopt best practices in terms of kindness at work


A clearly defined sequence

An important step in a difficult conversation is to name the problematic behaviours, attitudes, or actions. To get the message across, be specific and avoid generalizations. As in a relationship spat, “always” and “never” are not appropriate here. Simply stick to the facts.

Every action has consequences. However, it is quite likely that the other person may not be aware of them at all! Therefore, it can be useful to explain to the other person the consequences of the action in question.

By exploring the sources of the problematic situation, a solution can be found. Problematic situations rarely occur in a vacuum. They have their sources in certain triggers. Therefore, identifying these triggers provides a more complete understanding of the situation.

Soft skill

Adopt best practices for constructive feedback as a team

Constructive feedback

Engaging solutions

Being part of the solution is much more engaging than having it dictated to you. With this in mind, start by identifying, with the person concerned, possible solutions. This makes all the difference in the outcome of the problem.  

It is also a valuable time to clarify your expectations. What results are expected? What are the deadlines? The important thing is to validate the understanding and commitment of all stakeholders. This lays the foundation for a future where problematic behaviors or situations are adjusted. Of course, offer support for the future.

To ensure that the situation is corrected in a sustainable way, commit to specific follow-up, keeping in mind that it is in everyone’s interest that the problematic situation is resolved!

Soft skill

Develop successful communication practices as a team


In a professional setting, difficult conversations are inevitable. That’s why it’s important to be well prepared for them and to improve your skills in the areas of communication and feedback in order to deal with them in the best possible way. This makes teamwork more enjoyable and contributes to a kinder, more engaging organizational culture.